Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Ashlyn K. Kuersten

Second Advisor

Dr. Alan Isaak

Third Advisor

Dr. John Clark

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Zoann Snyder


This project examines interest group coalitional activity before the Supreme Court in affirmative action cases between 1971 and 1995. First, I address the characteristics and dynamics of amicus participants over time. Second, I examine the extent to which organizations with a smaller base of resources, in terms of staff and the number of years that organizations have been on the scene, engage in coalitional activity. I find that organizations with smaller staffs are more likely to participate in coalitions, and, contrary to my expectations, organizations that have been on the scene longer are more likely to engage in coalitional activity. Third, I examine how successful group participation via amicus curiae is in all affirmative action cases. I found that at the macro level, the proportion of briefs filed on the side of the “pro” affirmative action litigant significantly affects the probability that the Court will vote in favor of affirmative action, controlling for the Court’s ideology and solicitor general participation. I also found, however, that the proportion of coalitions lobbying “pro” affirmative action has a statistically negative effect on the outcome of the Court’s votes. At the micro level, I found that the proportion of briefs filed in favor of affirmative action had a positive effect on the probability of the justice’s voting in favor of the “pro” affirmative action litigant. The proportion of coalitions favoring the “pro” affirmative action litigant had a statistically negative effect on the probability of the justices’ votes. While the ideology of the individual justices was found to be a strong predictor of their votes in these cases, I found that “pro” affirmative action participation by the solicitor general had a statistically negative effect on the justices’ votes.

My findings suggest that while coalitions may help to mitigate the defects of pluralism insofar as scholars have suggested that access to the Court is concerned, I do not find strong evidence that the utility of these efforts in coalitions have a positive effect on the outcome of the Court’s affirmative action decisions.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access